LOS ANGELES -- If you don't like this World Series matchup, then you probably hate ice cream, puppies and rainbows. It's the first World Series showdown between 100-win teams since 1970, and the 205 combined wins for the Dodgers and Astros is the second-most of the wild-card era:
1998: Yankees (114) versus Padres (98) -- 212
2017: Dodgers (104) versus Astros (101) -- 205
2004: Cardinals (105) versus Red Sox (98) -- 203
1999: Braves (103) versus Yankees (98) -- 201
2016: Cubs (103) versus Indians (94) -- 197
On top of that, the Astros are looking for the first World Series championship in franchise history, while the Dodgers are trying to snap the record for most postseason appearances in a row without a title (this is their 11th postseason trip since their last victory over the A's to take the title in 1988). On top of that, you get Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander and Jose Altuve and Corey Seager and Carlos Correa and Cody Bellinger and George Springer and Kenley Jansen's cutter and Lance McCullers' curveball and the wondrous beards of Dallas Keuchel and Justin Turner.
The most important thing of the day: It's going to be hot. The forecasted game-time temperature of 96 degrees would be the hottest temperature for a World Series game since 1984, the first year Baseball-Reference.com includes temperature data. Game 1 in Arizona in 2001 had a game-time temperature of 94 degrees, and while the Diamondbacks normally close the roof in such weather, it was open that night under decree of Major League Baseball. Per historian John Thorn, that's the only World Series game since 1975 played at a temperature hotter than 81 degrees.
The hottest playoff game since 1984 also was at Dodger Stadium, in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS against the Cardinals with a 96-degree game-time temp. Yes, Kershaw started the game, and you might remember that was when he took a 6-2 lead into the seventh inning only to melt down as the Cardinals scored eight runs in the inning.
Kershaw said on Monday the heat isn't a big deal: "I don't think it's going to change anything. I think by 5:00, the sun will be down. They're from Houston, I'm from Texas; it's going to be hot for everybody. We're all used to it."
World Series Game 1: Astros at Dodgers
The stakes: Besides two franchises that have waited forever and 29 years for a title, how about two of the greatest pitchers of this generation trying to cement their legacies with some clutch World Series performances. Verlander came away empty in two appearances with the Tigers, while Kershaw makes his World Series debut. In his three postseason starts, Kershaw has gone 6⅓, 5 and 6 innings, with a 3.68 ERA. He has held batters to a .194 average, but six of the 12 hits he has allowed have been home runs. Indeed, all seven of his runs have come on home runs. Going back to the regular season, he has now given up at least one home run in eight consecutive starts. So while Verlander enters pitching some of the best baseball of his career -- he has a 1.23 ERA in 58⅔ innings with the Astros -- Kershaw might not be at his physical peak and has to cut down on the gopher balls.
If the Dodgers win: Remember that the Dodgers benefited against both the Diamondbacks and the Cubs from some scrambled rotations. Arizona had to use Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray in the wild-card game, while the Cubs churned through all their top pitchers in the final two games of their NLDS. There will be no such break in this series, as the Astros will start ace No. 1A in Keuchel in the opener on five days' rest. The Dodgers have scored 25 runs in Kershaw's three starts. They'd love to give him that run support again and avoid going up against Verlander needing a win just to avoid losing both games at home.
If the Astros win: They say the road team needs to get a split of those first two games, and the Astros would have to be feeling good if they can win Game 1 as they turn to Verlander for Game 2.
One key stat to know: This is probably just a statistical quirk, but let's throw it out there: Since 2006, the team to clinch its pennant first has gone on to win the World Series just once -- the 2008 Phillies. The Dodgers clinched on Thursday, the Astros on Saturday. Verlander said Monday that it's not so crazy. "I've been to two World Series where we swept the championship round and the team we were playing went six or seven games, and I felt like we lost a step with the downtime. It's such a unique sport where you go all season long with not having that many off days at all, and then all of a sudden you find yourself with a week off, it can be different."
The matchup that matters most: Keuchel versus the patience of the Dodgers' hitters. Keuchel lives on the edges -- at the bottom of the strike zone and the corners. The Dodgers thrive by not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, as they had the lowest chase rate of any team in the regular season, and some of their regulars -- mostly notably Yasiel Puig and Chris Taylor -- have been even more patient in the postseason (Puig has swung at just two first pitches in 35 plate appearances).
Here's what we mean with Keuchel: Among the 134 pitchers with at least 100 innings, Keuchel ranked 133rd in percentage of pitches in the strike zone, at 42.9 percent. He wants you to pound that sinker into the ground or chase the slider or changeup. He doesn't have the raw stuff, however, to induce a super-high chase rate; his rate of 30.2 percent ranked 30th.
The Dodgers would love to run up Keuchel's pitch count in the hot weather and get to a Houston bullpen that manager A.J. Hinch has lost some confidence in. It will be interesting to see if McCullers is available in the pen, although Hinch said on Monday that it's "very likely" McCullers starts Game 3 or 4.
The prediction: Kershaw gives up a home run -- but it's just a solo shot to Carlos Correa, and he pitches 5⅔ solid innings. Kenta Maeda (who has thrown five perfect relief innings in the postseason), Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen shut it down from there. Dodgers win 4-1.